Post Categories: Market Watch

Retail Perceptions: New Report from Interactions Uncovers Tips to Create and Retain Loyal Shoppers

sept2014-market-coverShoppers today have a myriad of stores to choose from and retailers face competition at every corner—on the street and online. Of course, price and location are always key factors to getting people into a store. But discount chains and higher-end options regularly coexist in close proximity to each other, so those clearly aren’t the be-all and end-all. What, then, are the less tangible elements of the in-store experience that influence consumers’ decisions of where to shop? And once they get in the front door, what keeps them coming back?

To find out, Interactions surveyed a broad sample of shoppers from all geographies, demographics and income levels for its latest Retail Perceptions report: “The In-Store Experience Revealed—What drives and keeps shoppers in your stores.” While it might come as a surprise to some, the answers revealed go well beyond SKU assortment, layout and other factors retailers traditionally focus on when trying to win shoppers over.

“We conducted this survey in response to trends we were seeing in the consumer insights work we do with our retailer partners,” explains Giovanni DeMeo, Vice President of Global Marketing and Analytics for Interactions. “We wanted to better understand what factors drive shopper loyalty so when we’re aligning with our retailer partners’ strategies, we bring forward solutions that are also reflective of what shoppers and consumers want.”

To start, Interactions asked shoppers to rank the following four factors of the in-store experience in order of importance: a positive checkout experience, the ability to give feedback, a clean store, and friendly and knowledgeable store associates. The surprising factor that came out on top? One of the easiest things for stores to control: cleanliness. And shoppers are truly willing to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to this. Nearly a quarter of all shoppers say they shop at a competitor versus their local grocery store due to cleanliness issues. Another 18 percent on top of that say they reserve their local store for quick in-and-out trips only.

These shoppers aren’t looking to do a white-glove test. In fact, their wants are fairly basic. Ranked by shoppers in order of importance, they’re looking for stores that 1) smell clean; 2) are well-lit; 3) have a clean checkout area; 4) have neat and orderly product displays; and 5) have well-maintained restrooms.


“Providing a clean, well-lit store admittedly takes resources,” says DeMeo. “But it’s not cost prohibitive. And when you look at it in the context of the survey results, which show that 93 percent of shoppers who have switched to a competitor would be willing to come back to the original store if the retailer made cleanliness a priority—it represents a significant opportunity.”

Another area with great potential for improving loyalty and minimizing lost customers is ensuring positive interactions with store associates. Fifty-four percent of consumers currently shop at a grocery store whose associates don’t meet their expectations. Again, shoppers aren’t asking for the moon. They simply want associates to be friendly, knowledgeable and easily accessible.

“A lot of this comes down to associate training,” says DeMeo. “And like store cleanliness, that’s not cost prohibitive. There are many low-cost solutions that are well recognized. If you look at the best-in-class examples—like Whole Foods, Wegmans and Target—they’re meeting shoppers’ expectations in these and other areas, yet they are still very profitable.”

“Shoppers are asking for clean stores, knowledgeable associates and a way to give you feedback. In return, they’ll reward you with their loyalty. When you look at it that way, it’s really not too much to ask.” –Giovanni DeMeo, Interactions’ Vice President of Global Marketing and Analytics.

The survey also revealed shoppers’ opinions on what constitutes a positive checkout experience and how they prefer to provide feedback to retailers. Several trends emerged: nearly half of consumers shop at a grocery store that doesn’t meet their expectations for a positive in-store experience in some way—and nearly 1 in 4 shoppers have switched to a competitor for their primary shopping trips because of such issues. The silver lining, however, is that more than 9 out of 10 of those consumers say they would return to their local store if the retailer made a commitment to improving cleanliness, and monitoring checkout lanes and store associates.

“This shows us there’s a high percentage of unstable shoppers out there,” explains DeMeo. “If someone else comes in and gives them what they want—you’re going to lose them. But if you make an effort to truly listen to consumers and make changes accordingly, they’ll reward you with their loyalty.”

To successfully implement and sustain meaningful improvements to the in-store experience, DeMeo says retailers need to focus more on monitoring their performance regularly and taking corrective action quickly when needed.

sept14-calendar“Many retailers use some sort of mystery shopping or auditing process to evaluate how their stores are adhering to corporate standards. But the results often aren’t assessed until weeks or months later—and may never even reach front-line associates,” says DeMeo. “Shoppers are acting in real time; retailers have to be able to do the same.”

One simple solution to this is to combine evaluation services with associate education and training. In fact, Interactions is leading the way in the service monitoring market by offering in-store audits and service evaluations that build in triggers and processes to deliver immediate corrective action. For example, say an Interactions’ evaluator engages with an associate who doesn’t meet the retailer’s standards for uniform cleanliness. The evaluator would reveal him- or herself and give the associate a card with a special code on it. The associate would take the card to an Interactions-provided tablet at the back of the store and access a one to two minute training module covering uniform standards. At the end, the associate would take a short quiz and the results would automatically be sent to regional and corporate stakeholders to show that this area of concern had been identified and addressed.

“The whole process only takes two or three minutes, but has a much bigger impact than traditional mystery shops and audits,” says DeMeo. “Associates get exposure to improved ways of meeting the compliance factors in a timely manner, when it can actually have an impact on shopper behavior.”

DeMeo concludes that the survey results make it clear that “the old way of doing things isn’t working. Retailers need to find ways to change the in-store experience—and they need experts to help them do that. A lot of retailers will think they can build their own programs. But it’s more effective—both in terms of cost and outcomes—to bring in people whose sole focus is building an unbiased, action-oriented program that aligns with what shoppers want, and minimizes losses while maximizing loyalty.”

To learn more about the insights and opportunities revealed in the latest Retail Perceptions report, visit to download a complete copy.